The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument on NASA's Terra satellite provides scientists with a new view of the Earth. Using data collected by MODIS, researchers at Boston University were able to create these land cover maps. Understanding the land cover of Earth aids policy makers involved in natural resource management. The maps are also critical for scientists as they study changes in the Earth system and as they model the Earth system. For example, in order to calculate the carbon budget for the Earth system, scientists can use these maps to determine the extent of vegetation covering the land surface that is absorbing carbon dioxide. Each of the varying land types have different impacts on the Earth system. Snow and ice cover cool the planet by reflecting sunlight back to space, forests absorb huge amounts of carbon dioxide, and croplands and urban areas reflect the human impact on the Earth.
The data that was analyzed for this map was collected by MODIS from November 2000 through October 2001. This map is the most refined global picture ever created of the distribution of Earth's ecosystems and land use patterns. The spatial resolution of this land cover map is 1 kilometer (.6 miles), a noted improvement on older versions of similar maps. The map is color coded based on 16 different land cover types. The land cover types fall into one of two categories, natural vegetation and agricultural, urban, and barren. There are eleven natural vegetation land types, ranging from Evergreen Needleleaf Forests to Permanent Wetland. The remaining five land types vary from croplands to snow and ice to urban and built-up.
There are three versions of this dataset. Two show the same base map, but have different label styles. This dataset has a slide show of each land type, the other, Land Cover Map with Ribbon of Labels, shows all of the labels in a ribbon around the equator. The third version, Land Cover Animation , shows each of the categories separately then progressively overlays the layers as an animation.